The Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu is famous for its magnificent mansions. The region is located in the triangle formed by Tiruchirapalli, Thanjavur and Madurai. The large mansions here are in striking contrast to the modest towns and villages, they are set in. The builders of these mansions belonged to the Chettinad community.
Even today, many homeowners, especially in southern India, deem the architecture in the highest regard and take inspiration for their homes.
Well, we too have taken some inspiration and are here to share with you our ideas. Presenting, a few design ideas from the Chettinad architecture that you could incorporate in your modern home.
A Historical Context
Members of the Chettinad community migrated to Madras, Burma and Malaya in the 19th and 20th century. Here, they emerged enormously successful in various trading and banking ventures.
The settlement patterns of the Chettiars followed sophisticated rules of urban planning. They worked on the Grid-Iron pattern of town planning. Houses were constructed in accordance with the Tamilian traditions of rectangular plots, spacious bedrooms and inner courtyards.
The Chettinad mansions were embellished with teak and marble and were built using a type of limestone called Karai. The interiors, however, were inspired from all over the world. Construction materials and decor items were imported from Europe and East Asian countries. For instance, marble came from Italy, chandeliers and teak from Burma, crystals from Europe and so on.
Travelling the world, the Chettiars brought in the global influences back home. This is why we see Western European styles combined with Indian styles and detailing in their architecture.
Chettinad Style Kitchen
In a courtyard space, a brick and lime plastered stove characterised the Chettinad kitchen interiors. The flooring was done using Terracotta tiles, and red oxide was used for treating the floor. Utensils were made of steel, brass, metal and wood. As the mansions extended to large areas, there were many storage rooms. Kitchen storage had simple open wooden shelves with neatly arranged utensils. Groceries were stored in storage rooms located around the kitchen courtyard.
To add a Chettinad touch to your kitchen, the key is to use teak finish or membrane finish laminates for the cabinets. The rustic look with membrane finish shutters adds a traditional touch to space. Use authentic patterns of Athangudi tiles for the flooring or for the backsplash. You can use Chettinad style wooden columns for the kitchen entrance to accentuate the ambience. Include pieces of decor like brass vessels and Chettinad weave baskets to add to the theme.
Chettinad Inspired Foyer
In a typical Chettinad mansion, the foyer, known as ‘thinnai’, had men receiving visitors and conducting business. There was one at one or both ends of the house. Raised platforms on either side of the entrance were provided for people to be seated. Series of ornate columns of granite or wood decorated the entrance door at the foyer.
In the present times, traditional veranda space is given up in modern apartments. However, by using the right elements, a foyer can be designed in the Chettinad style. For space, you can have modular ledges holding Chettinad weaved baskets, laden with flowers. Wooden carved columns will bring in the essence of the culture. The entrance door can be carved in Burma teak that adds grandeur. Door panels and frames can be embellished with carvings and sculptures to represent the South Indian culture. Athangudi tiles can be used for the flooring to add character and style that is quintessentially Chettinad. Modular shoe racks can be stencilled using Athangudi tile patterns to blend in the theme.
Chettinad Themed Living Room
A typical Chettinad home had a double roof height with clerestory lighting. The polished granite columns added grandeur to space with coloured glass windows improving the colour tone. Five coats of lime egg plaster were used to give an impeccable and smooth finish. It also helped in maintaining the internal room temperature in the hot region.
To add the Chettinad heritage to your living space, you can include the rafter design in the false ceiling to mimic the traditional design. Wooden carvings on the ceiling will add to the theme. To demarcate areas in the room, you can add beautifully carved wooden columns. Bookshelves in Siam wood laminate having Chettinad brassware décor will tie it to the style. You can also add a wooden plank swing with brass chains to match the style.
Chettiar Style Dining Area
A Chettiar household often had a large joint family, often entertaining guests. To gather around, there were long rectangular dining halls adjacent to the kitchen courtyard. The dining halls were big enough to cater to a large crowd of up to 150 people. The family would sit in long rows on the floor and eat in banana leaves. Colourful glass ventilators ensured that the food smell cleared out of the house.
To bring in Chettinad style of design in your dining area, solid wood loose furniture is a must for the setting. You can use glass shutters or membrane finish colour film shutters for the crockery unit. Pair the unit with antique style brass handles. To separate the dining area from the living space, use wooden columns with carvings and designs. You can use Tanjore paintings in the décor. Athangudi tile cladding on the walls to create serendipity. Checkerboard pattern flooring or short hair rugs can be used as a style statement.
Typical Chettinad Study Area
The Chettiars were everything from tradesmen to businessmen to money lenders. The work zone was located in the front verandah where the “kannaku petti” (accounts box) stored stationery and books. The heavy safe was placed in the front rooms at the entrance.
To design a study area in the Chettinad style, you can use membrane finish shutters with dark wood finish laminates to style your work zone. You can set up a study table with visible vertical panels and brass handles. Pairing it with Athangudi tiles for the flooring will beautify the space.
The Chettinad Inspired Bedroom
For joint families like the Chettiar’s, rooms with beds were only for the elders. The decor was a blend of Indian and neo-classical styles. A unique character of the architecture was the Belgian moulded, embossed designer tiles. Teak and rosewood shades dominated the furnishings with shades of green and blue used along. The storage units juxtaposed with terracotta tiles, Athangudi tiles and wall painted frescos.
To bring the Chettinad style to your bedroom, traditional hinged wardrobes with rustic wooden grains and earthy colour tones can be the go-to. Use wall decals of traditional motifs on the walls and furnishings to bring in the essence of the style. A contemporary twist would be to use teak wood as a mono-material along with polish cement flooring.
We’re sure you are already dreaming of Chettinad style home. For more such design inspirations for your home, meet a HomeLane design expert today.